In a major setback for the Trump Administration, U.S. District Judge Stanley A. Bastian has temporarily blocked the U.S. Postal Service from continuing the national service changes which it initiated in July, in part due to actions leading to voter disenfranchisement.
The Court finds that a nationwide injunction is appropriate in this case. Indeed, if there ever were a mandate for the need of a nationwide injunction, it is this case. It is easy to envision situations where the mail needs to cross state lines, for example, residents who are residing out of state and want to send in an absentee ballot, medications being sent from other states, as well as small businesses who send their products to customers who live in other states. A nationwide injunction is necessary to give Plaintiffs the relief to which they are entitled.
Judge Bastian, Yakima, WA, directed USPS to treat all election mail as first class mail without requiring additional postage, per historical practice; to abandon its controversial “leave mail behind” policy; and to “replace, reassemble or reconnect any removed mail-sorting machines that are needed to ensure timely processing and delivery of election mail.”
With this nationwide order, USPS is explicitly prohibited from “taking any actions to implement or enforce operational changes outlined in its July 10, 2020 “Mandatory Stand-Up Talk: All Employees.”
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is leading the coalition of 14 states* that sued President Trump over concerns about how changes that Postmaster General Loius DeJoy implemented in July could affect mail-in ballots and the November election.
“Americans can now confidently vote by mail and have their voices heard,” Ferguson said in a statement.
In granting the preliminary injunction, Judge Bastian noted that the case centers on voter disenfranchisement:
… at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement. This is evident in President Trump’s highly partisan words and tweets, the actual impact of the changes on primary elections that resulted in uncounted ballots, and recent attempts and lawsuits by the Republican National Committee and President Trump’s campaign to stop the States’ efforts to bypass the Postal Service by utilizing ballot drop boxes, as well as the timing of the changes…
DeJoy’s actions fly in the face of Congress’s intent to insulate the management of the Postal Service from partisan politics and political influence and acknowledgement that free and fair elections depend on a reliable mail service.
It is easy to conclude that the recent Postal Services’ changes [are] an intentional effort on the part the current administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state, and federal elections, especially given that 72% of the decommissioned high speed mail sorting machines that were decommissioned were located in counties where Hillary Clinton receive[d] the most votes in 2016.
In reference to the “leave mail behind” policy, Judge Bastian quoted the July 10, 2020 directive to employees which explicitly acknowledged that mail delivery would be disrupted:
The document noted that “[o]ne aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that–temporarily–we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks, (in P&DCs), which is not typical.”
During congressional testimony this summer, DeJoy admitted that his “leave mail behind” policy significantly contributed to first class mail delivery delays. He implemented this policy despite a federal law requiring that first class mail be delivered, or delivery be attempted, on the day the mail is received by the USPS office.
The case is State of Washington et al. v. Trump et al., case number 1:20-cv-03127, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.
* Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
h/t Election Law Blog / header image, King County Elections